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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Why you should leave Tiger Woods alone

I was checking out at my local supermarket when I was swarmed by a massive wave of juicy tabloids covering Tigergate. From "EXCLUSIVE! SHOCKING NEW TIGER SEX TEXTS!" to a detailed breakdown of which bathroom drapes Elin would receive based on their pre-nup, I couldn't help but wonder what if this was my dirty laundry being aired for all of America to judge?

I get that Octomom, Bennifer, Brangelina, and the Gosselins sell. I understand that celebrity infidelity is a vicarious escape for us. I get it. But sometimes, just sometimes, we need to draw a line and ask ourselves "maybe this is none of my damn business?"

The world of American pop culture paparrazi and professional golf are an odd and grotesque couple. Even the diehard sports fan's escape, ESPN, has lowered itself to TMZ worthy coverage of Tigergate. I counted four times within one hour in which they played a 911 recording of a frantic Elin Woods pleading with dispatchers to help her mother who was suffering from severe stomach pains. Not only was this tape completely irrelevant, it captured the voice of a Elin Woods in a vulnerable and painstakingly personal moment. Where's the entertainment value in that?

No one wants the nation to hear a 911 tape of our spouse calling dispatchers describing how grandpa took one too many viagras. These embarrassing incidents are going to happen in life to everyone and when they do, we expect the peanut gallery to have the decency to let us deal with it privately. Why should Tiger Woods be an exception here?

Sometimes in marriages, spouses cheat on each other. It's despicable behavior, but it happens. I've read that some fans believe they have the right to hear about Woods' affair because their kids look up to him as a role model. This argument is rubbish because if the infidelity was happening in your own family, wouldn't you do everything to protect your children from hearing about it on the playground? You would want them to hear a filtered version that protected both their purity (earmuffs!) and your personal right to tell them what happened on your own terms. Anybody, let alone a stranger, who tried to cross that line would just begging for a five-iron in the groin, right?

Our nation's obsession with voyeurism and celebrity has created a false sense of entitlement that nothing in the life of the rich and famous is off-limits.
I've been guilty of this myself, poking fun at Woods' choice in alleged mistresses with my buddies and indulging myself in ridiculous conspiracy videos. But as I watch my sacred world of sports disintegrate into a rerun of "Gossip Girl" I've come to realize this exact behavior is only adding fuel to the raging tabloid fire. The media ultimately only reports news that we show interest in and our fascination with Tigergate is the real reason it's everywhere.

So do yourself a favor and leave Tiger alone. Don't make us bust out the video of the time you overdosed on eggnog at holiday work party and regurgitated all over the receptionist. I know 300 million Americans that would love to see it.

The Wild, Wildcard Contenders

By week fifteen, we've separated early season pretenders (Giants, Broncos) from the contenders (Vikings, Colts, Saints). With the exception of the AFC and NFC East, six of the league's eight divisions are virtually locked up. There's still plenty left to play for in the final three weeks of the NFL regular season with multiple second tier teams scrambling to snag one of the coveted wildcard spots.

Recent history suggests wildcard teams are legit Superbowl contenders, we've had four (97 Broncos, 00 Ravens, 05 Steelers, 07 Giants) hoist the trophy in the last twelve years. Let's take a look at this year's likely wildcard teams and weigh their chances to be the latest unlikely wildcard champion.

Baltimore Ravens (7-6, 2-4 road)
Red flag: The road record is an obvious deterrent because the path to Superbowl 44 is obviously not going to go through Baltimore. After an impressive early road victory at San Diego, the Ravens lone road win came in week ten at the lowly Browns. Quarterback Joe Flacco has regressed after a promising start and the defense is no longer the disruptive force it once was.

There's hope because: Still, the Ravens had the misfortune of playing at Indy, Green Bay, Minnesota, New England, AND San Diego all in the same season and lost every game by less than a touchdown, often in heartbreaking fashion. A two-point loss at Indy and a miracle fourth quarter comeback by Minnesota proved the Ravens are capable of winning on the road against the top contenders in both conferences. Don't forget the league's leader in yards from scrimmage, Ray Rice. Rice is a force the Ravens can ride throughout the playoffs it Flacco can return to his mistake-free self from the beginning of the season.

Bottom line: The defense may not be what it once was but it's still among the top five in the NFL. If Ray Lewis and company can force turnovers and win the field position battle this is still a dangerous team.

Denver Broncos (8-5, 4-3 road)
Red Flag: OK, so I already tabbed them as "pretenders" earlier. Here's why: in the second half of the season, Josh McDaniels' squad has been crushed at Indy, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. Don't forget the 34-3 home shellacking by the San Diego Chargers either. With the exception of Pittsburgh, these are the exact same teams the Broncos will have to face to make it to the Superbowl. While they've shown signs of snapping out of their second half funk, it's quite the stretch to believe they can put together a miraculous string of road victories over the powerhouses of the AFC.

There's hope because: The 00 Ravens, 05 Steelers, 07 Giants were all built around their suffocating defenses, right? While the Broncos D has fallen off it's league leading first half pace they can still overwhelm teams with both young (DE Elvis Dumerveil) and veteran (DBs Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins) defensive talent. They'll need too ride their talented tandem backfield (RBs Knowshown Moreno and Correll Buckhalter) and hope that Orton can move the chains on 3rd down to Brandon Marshall.

Bottom line: This was supposed to be, hands down, the worst team in the NFL this season. They've overachieved magnificently but beyond one wildcard weekend win, their end will run.

Green Bay Packers: 9-4 (4-2 Road)
Red Flag: Every NFL historian knows that Lambeau offers the most unique home field advantage in the league. While the Packers will likely host wild card weekend, the road from there is treacherous. Cheeseheads will likely have to follow their team through (in no particular order) the Metrodome in Minneapolis and the Superdome in New Orleans, not exactly the ideal climate for the Packers to demoralize their opponents with their cold weather immunity. Division rival Minnesota's young wideouts exposed the Pack's defensive backs in both lopsided meetings this season,

There's hope because: The Packers are peaking at the perfect time, winners of five straight including victories over the Bengals, Cowboys, and Ravens. After a porous start, the offensive line has finally begun to gel and protect their unquestioned offensive MVP, QB Aaron Rodgers. CB Charles Woodson is a frontrunner for defensive player of the year and they're going to need him to back it up against the likes of Favre and Brees in the postseason.

Bottom line: This is a team that has matured and come together nicely. The problem remains that everything they do, the Saints and Vikings do better. They've looked vastly inferior in both meetings versus the Vikes this year so they better hope they can avoid a third meeting.

Dallas Cowboys: 8-5 (3-3 Road)
Red Flag: I don't buy the December Dallas curse theory and I don't think the Cowboys do either. This is a difficult team to figure out because they are stacked with talent on both sides of the ball. The problem is they never seem to show up on the same day. The pass defense (21st in the league) needs to improve and the neck injury of DE Demarcus Ware could prove to be catastrophic. This team needs to work on its consistency and that falls squarely on the shoulders of head coach Wade Phillips. If the boys in blue go one and out in the postseason, expect Jerry Jones to send Phillips fishing this offseason.

There's hope because: As I write this, the Cowboys are dismantling the undefeated Saints in the Superdome. No one should be surprised. The Cowboys have championship talent at every skill position and this is the kind of win that can work as the perfect springboard to boost their confidence going into the playoffs. The postseason is all about momentum, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Eagles falter and the Cowboys take the NFC East, furthering their chances as a potential darkhorse.

Bottom line: Tony Romo will have yet another opportunity to silence his critics. It'll take a balanced team effort to trade punches with the heavyweights in the NFC and they'll have to do it on the road. Not a likely scenario, but I wouldn't be shocked if they manage to take out New Orleans again.

In Pursuit of Perfection

In the game of handicapping, perfection is dangerous because it simply doesn't exist.

Perfection only exists in the mind of a casual bettor who hits a miracle parlay during his buddy's bachelor party romp in Vegas. A fleeting moment of perfection creates a lifetime of unrealistic expectations. Before he knows it, Joe Bachelor is slumped over at an off-strip casino buffet filling out his final desperate "get even" parlay card.

As we approach the final three weeks of the NFL regular season, two teams, the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints, still remain in pursuit of perfection. If you don't want to join Joe Bachelor in the cheap seafood line, Be careful not to ride them to the bitter end without doing your homework first.

Let's take a look at their body of work so far:

Indianapolis Colts (14-0, 9-4-1 ATS)
Games Remaining: home vs NY Jets (7-6 ATS, 4-3 ROAD ATS), away vs Buffalo Bills (7-6 ATS, 2-5 HOME ATS)

Both are favorable matchups. I expect the Jets to open up as 5-5.5 pt dogs and wouldn't be surprised if the public jumps on the Jets and moves the line solely because of the "they need the win more" theory. This is a commonly subscribed theory among sports bettors, that belief that the team desperate to save their season will circle the wagons and show up with the motivation to slay a significantly better team. If you see this mid-week movement, don't be afraid to jump on the Colts at the 3.5-4 pt range.

Here's a potential negative: Manning's Colts have flirted with perfection before and disappointed Indy Backers by sitting their starters in seemingly meaningless losses. This shouldn't be too alarming because this is an Indy team that still has a lot to prove. Despite the fact that he's an heir to Tony Dungy's conservative philosophies, rookie coach Jim Caldwell showed no sign of taking his pedal off the gas in a teeter toter 35-31 victory Week 15 win in Jacksonville. Caldwell has the opportunity to go undefeated in his first season, and if the Colts go to Buffalo in week 17 still unblemished, expect Caldwell to play to the whistle in order to achieve perfection.

New Orleans Saints (13-0, 8-5 ATS)
Games remaining: home vs Dallas (6-7 ATS, 2-4 ROAD ATS), home vs Tampa Bay (4-9 ATS, 3-3 ROAD ATS), away vs Carolina (6-7 ATS, 2-4 HOME ATS)

Unlike the Colts, the Saints still have something to play for: home field advantage throughout the playoffs. While it's unlikely they'll relinquish the top seed in the NFC to the Vikings, it's one of many incentives New Orleans has to keep winning.

The problem is the Saints haven't been covering lately (0-2 ATS last two weeks, 2-5 in the last seven). They face inflated spreads every week because of their prolific scoring offense (an NFL best 35.8ppg), but the fact of the matter is that they've been playing down to the level of their competition in recent weeks (close comeback win at Atlanta, miracle comeback at Washington).

This isn't an indictment on the Saints chances to win the Superbowl, their gritty resolve in the face of adversity is exactly what head coach Sean Payton wants to see out of his team heading into the playoffs. But too blindly tail the Saints against the spread is a risky play, especially considering their remaining schedule against a wounded (but dangerous) Cowboys squad and the road finale against a Carolina team that gave New Orleans their first true test during their week nine matchup.

The surviving members of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins reconvene to pop a bottle of champagne after the last remaining undefeated NFL teams falls every season. This year the bubbly might have to wait: it's certainly plausible that both New Orleans and Indianapolis may pull it off. Just remember, for us bettors there are never any bottles of Dom Peringon waiting for us. Tread carefully when following these hot teams and do your homework on each matchup. Our battle is against the spread and our war is versus the oddsmakers, leave the assault on history to the warriors on the gridiron.

Monday, December 7, 2009

2009 Sports Highlights

2009 Sports Highlights

Years ago, when I worked in sales, I had a comic taped to my refrigerator. It stayed there for years. I can't recall the drawing, but the quote was the memorable part. It read, "I've known anger, rejection, and pain. I've been in retail." At the time, it rang true. Working on strictly commission, one day I was flying high and the next was a complete train-wreck. I must have hit the corner bar after work more often during those years than any other.

Now that I'm a couple of decades older, I realize that being in sales really isn't any different than being a sports fanatic. Anger, rejection, and pain aren't the half of it. Try anger, rejection, pain, bewilderment, betrayal, and outright depression. On the other end of the pendulum, I've been elated, enthused, hopeful, and at times--complete euphoria. No wonder we always want our spouses to be even tempered and mentally stable...because we certainly are not.

This year I can honestly say that although the championships went according to historic protocol with expected and unsurprising wins from the Lakers, Steelers and Yankees, other issues did not fail to provide excitement and astonishment.

Let's have a look at 2009's interesting highlights.

Sex, Drugs, and ...well, maybe not rock and roll....but there certainly was an ample amount of sex and drugs.

  • Michael Phelps memorable marijuana pipe scandal. Amazingly, he lost major endorsements over taking a few hits, although Michael Vick, an ex-convict who was proven responsible for extreme animal abuse seems to be just the guy to represent Nike. Oh wait, that's right, Nike did supply a written statement promising us that Vick doesn't have an actual "endorsement," they just supply him with product. I get it now. That's very different.

Endorsement (en dorse ment) 1. The public act of supporting or representing a product.

  • On February 9, 2009 the A-Rod, Alex Rodriguez admitted to using steroids and other enhancement drugs during the 2001-2003 MLB seasons. Lucky for him the no-steroid policy didn't come into play until the 2004 season, so Rodriguez is exempt from any type of punishment from the league.
  • And last, but certainly not least, we have the memorable autobiography in which Andre Agassi admitted to crystal meth use during his tennis career.
  • On the sex scandal scene, we've got Tiger Woods allegations over not one, but several "transgressions" against his blonde bombshell of a wife. Now of course, I personally am not accusing anyone of anything. I couldn't afford the lawsuit. But true or unfounded, soccer superstar David Beckham and ESPN analyst Steve Phillips also found themselves in hot water over the subject of infidelity this year.

Who Got the Axe in 2009?

  • Well, some things we just saw coming from a mile away and the axe that landed on Notre Dame coach, Charlie Weis' career was one of them. Weis finished up his career at his alma mater with a 35-27 record at a university that had much higher expectations out of their program. Sorry Charlie.
  • Bobby Bowden, a different story altogether. Some are saying he retired, although the press release that announced Bowden's fate clearly included news of the "firing," by FSU president, TK Wetherell. Directly after he got the axe, two 21 year old spokesmen (quarterback, Chris Ponder and linebacker Dekoda Watson) were thrown to the media wolves to explain. How's that for courage? Nice job, Wetherell.
  • On a much more somber note, legendary Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster, Harry Kalas certainly didn't get the axe, but he did receive the sacred call from on high in 2009. On a cool April morning, Kalas, 73, took the elevator to the Phillie's broadcast booth, just as he had done for decades. The Phillies played and beat the Nationals that day, but it hardly mattered...the voice of Philadelphia baseball had moved on to a better place. He will be missed.

YouTube Videos

Yep, we are in the age of technology and as a result, the best sports moments of 2009 were captured on video. Here they are:

Actual Sports

You may be wondering if I'm going to include any actual sports news or sports predictions in this rundown of memorable moments. The answer is yes. The few, the proud...the memorable sports moments of 2009.

  • I'm a die-hard Colts fan. I realize full well that everyone is not. But one cannot deny that although it was not a championship game, nor was it a game that really mattered one way or another, the Colts vs. Patriots game of November 16, 2009 was one of the most surprising victories of the year. The most satisfying part, as far as I am concerned, is the fact that against my better judgment, I continued to watch it to the end. Okay, okay...I may be bragging here, but for an actual Colts fan, the temptation to turn off the television and hit the pillow with a wave of disappointment was huge. But there is something about Peyton that can cause you to believe in the unexpected. When he came through, it was epic....it was exhilarating and extremely satisfying. I hit the pillow that night with the mantra, "yes!" repeating from my lips
  • If you're a NASCAR and a Jimmie Johnson fan then this was another prideful year for you. History was made when the most dominant driver of the decade won a record 4th consecutive championship at the Homestead speedway this year. The kicker...he's young enough and good enough to pass up his predecessors (Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, and Jeff Gordon). It's a nail-biter, isn't it?

So this is the recap of 2009. You may have something to add, and if you do...please comment my blog and we will even give you sports picks style credit for the addition. For me though... this is enough anger, rejection, pain and excitement...until next year.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Michael Vick Returns to Atlanta

Todays match-up between the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles pits the former face of the Falcons Michael Vick off as he faces them as a different bird; an eagle.

Vick came out with mixed reactions as parts of the crowd booed and others cheered as was much expected since he has received similar fan-fare in Philadelphia this year. His first play he ran for 4 yards and than left the field....Than in the third quarter Vick rushes for his first touchdown in years.
What are your thoughts on Vicks return to the dirty south?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

How to Lose Your Bankroll in Seven Days

The following is some sports betting advice on do's and don'ts:

Parlaying is a lot like communism. It’s a great concept that works in a perfect world. There’s only one problem: the world ain’t perfect. Sports bettors who swim in the parlay tank are flawed creatures. Their demise is inevitable because they swing for the fences instead of working small edges and carefully managing their bankrolls. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way. Just ask my bank account.

The fun is definitely over.

Rewind to week three of the NFL season. After a profitable college football Saturday, I made the ingenious decision to let it ride on a juicy three-team NFL parlay. With two already in the bag, I needed the Steelers to cover a measly three points versus the Bengals (I will henceforward refer to them as the Bungles). Ben Roethlisberger was dissecting the Bungles secondary at will; capping off a seven minute drive with a one-yard superman touchdown dive. Pittsburgh cruised into the fourth quarter holding an eleven point advantage. All was well in parlayland.

Then it happened. Roethilsberger threw a pick-six. Cedric “I’m on a boat” Benson rumbled 23 yards to cut the lead to five. After another Pitt three and out, Carson Palmer woke up from his Steeler induced coma and marched the Bungles down to the Pittsburgh twenty-yard line. After a fourth and two completion to Laveranues Coles to the fifteen I got a sinking feeling of defeat in my stomach. I knew it was over.

There’s a funny thing about parlays. No matter how bleak the outlook, they always throw you a bone on your last leg. Palmer spiked the ball on first down instead of calling a timeout. A rabid James Harrison forced Palmer to throw two quick incompletions to Ocho Cinco and Chris Henry. Fourth and ten with thirty-six ticks remaining. The Bungles called their last timeout and I was pacing hopelessly around my living room. The momentum for Cinci was a runaway freight train and I was powerless to stop it. My heart sank after third-string back Brian Leonard caught a short pass and rumbled through three Pittsburgh defenders for a first down. The next play Palmer fired a game winning four-yard touchdown strike to Andre Caldwell. The Bungles were back.

Yep, I was Bungalised

What followed violated every handicapping rule in the book. I took the only game left on the board, the Sunday night Colts-Cardinals game and parlayed it big. Whiff. Monday night I parlayed the Cowboys-Panthers game for half my bankroll. Whiff. I took the rest and placed three monster parlays for week four. At this point there was no research, no leans, there was only action. It was pure tilt, chasing losses with no regard for my remaining bankroll.

The King of Tilt. I feel you, Mikey. I really do.

After another 0-3 plate appearance I was done. Seven days of tilt erased six months of responsible systemized wagering. Just like that it was over.

“Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely.” Lord Acton didn’t have English Premier League parlays in mind when he coined his quote, but his words cannot ring truer. Parlays corrupt, absolute parlays corrupt, absolutely. They corrupted my discipline, my objective mind, and ultimately my bankroll.

Before you dive headfirst into the parlay tank with the oddsmaker and bookie sharks remember you have a much larger edge betting straight over the long run. I’ve heard the argument parlays eliminate the ten percent juice the house takes on straight wagers. But if you can’t beat the juice straight up you’ll never turn a profit parlaying. If you don’t believe me, they are always hiring at Wendy’s. I’m hoping to get promoted to shift manager by the end of the month.


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